DOMAF@11: Swimming Against Cameroon’s Language polFor many years today, Cameroon has set its footprint on the international stage, with irresistible brands like Makossa, Bikutsi, Afro and recently, Njang.
While the appearance on the international scene appears uniform, that is far from the reality on the ground. That seam of uniformity at close view is but a mirage.
Linguistic divides continue to be at the fore of every sector, art included. Beyond cliques and alliances, the most representative factions of the linguistic divide, are the Anglophone and Francophone parts of the country.
Both grounded in the colonial influence of the British and French respectively, nothing successfully escapes the classification table.
With the Anglophone crisis and the rise in visibility of the polarisation of Anglophone and Francophone entertainment in Cameroon, a lot of good things appear to be flowing unnoticed under the bridge. While observations are more keen with the current dispensation, many appear to more interested in what linguistic faction was side-lined.
One of the establishments flowing against the divisive tide, has been the Douala Art and Music Festival, DOMAF. The festival has over the years, given a voice to entertainers of both Anglophone and Francophone extraction. The 11th edition of the show is themed ‘Demain c’est hier’ and will see a large crop of top artistes taking the stage from November 10 through 13, 2022 in Douala.
Established in 2010 by Green Grass association, and built upon the name Douala, Cameroon’s economic capital, the founding team charted a rather unusual path. The festival sheds light on music, dance, fashion shows and exhibitions, among others. DOMAF’s core acts have always been about bringing it all to the bas peuple, the underdogs in society and the common man who fights hard to earn a living daily.
It was therefore no news that when it decided to extend to Yaoundé (in September 2022), DOMAF targeted where even devils dread.
They built a stage at the heart of Avenue Kennedy and brought Cameroon to it. Kennedy is known to be one of the areas prone to most street violence, robberies, and street kids most of whom make a living through pickpocketing.
But beyond just impacting the daily street hustlers, DOMAF maintained its culture of inclusiveness, pulling up a roster of acts drawn from basically all of Cameroon’s major strata. Despite being an initiative grounded in the French speaking parts of the country, it has always extended a hand to Anglophone artistes, satisfying both their fans and its mission of unity.
It was to say the least, exhilarating to see the likes of Joyce Babatunde, Tata, Ishaku and the energetic duo, Ego & Prido mount the stage in the heart of the wilderness Avenue Kennedy is seen to be, and make the nation dance.
The performance also brought to light, the burning desire of Anglophones who cut off from home for many years today, remain bent on connecting to their roots.
Seeing the show pay homage to late Fhish who too was a towering pillar of the exportation of music, was another major highlight. It spoke of oneness and universality of purpose, disregarding his linguistic origin.
Fhish himself was a vocal critic and advocate for a better social, economic and political life in Cameroon. Honouring him was another way to encourage all those battling for a better Cameroon (regardless of linguistic orientation), that there remains hope for they who believe. Where else could he be bestWhat better way to honour him than before the very street kids he fought for?
True to the vision
The first ever edition of DOMAF was themed ‘United 4 Peace’ with the likes of Jovi and Valsero in performance. The second edition (2010) contributed greatly to shape DOMAF, giving it much of the form it has now with regards to the promotion of Hip Hop music.
Finding the genre much ignored by traditional media in Cameroon, the initiative sought to promore hip hop and give a platform for artistes rooted in the brand. DOMAF has stayed true to its hip hop culture ever since.
Worthy of note too is the 2016 edition, Place for Young People. “We had to show them the voice. We chose Boudor as the legend and Sam Fan Thomas as the godfather,” DOMAF noted.
Bouncing back after a one-year suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2022 edition promises to be explosive, themed ‘Demain c’est hier’ (loosely translated as ‘tomorrow is yesterday’).
Beyond the stage
DOMAF is an eco-friendly initiative, under the banner of The Green Grass association. The association describes itself as a collective of youths working for the protection of the environment.
It defines its role as having to “make young people aware of the importance not only of living together but of living well together.”
In addition to music shows, fashion shows, parades and street arts that make up its festival, the Green Grass Association also organises workshops to share information and experiences in different domains.
Below are some artistes slated to perform at DOMAF 2022